Do Yourself a Favor, Get Some Good Ideas

I recently received an email from Piers Fawkes, asking me to pass along a little information about a conference he is hosting: PSFK Good Ideas Salon coming up January 30th in London.

You can find all the details you need here:

To see a video of a Good Ideas Salon that PSFK held in NY you can check it out here:

Typically, I wouldn’t just pass along information just becuase someone sends me an email. I am doing so now for a number of reasons.

  1. I have seen Piers speak at a conference before and he seems to always have some really interesting things to pass along.
  2. The line-up of speakers really looks amazing and I am sad that I won’t be able to attend myself.
  3. Perhaps the most important reason, I have followed PSFK for years. Piers and his team have consistently delivered interesting and relevant content and never asked anything from me in return. Until now, of course.

It is that last point that I find interesting, and it seems like something all brands in the social media world could take a lesson from. You never know when you are going to need a favor, or who you will need/want help from; so treat everyone as best as you can all the time. Of course, the odds are that PSFK doesn’t really need my help to sell tickets, but what if they did? Or, what if they had some sort of crisis where they needed to rally support, I would probably be there to help out. This is becuase we already have an established relationship, and through all the content and inspiration they have given me over the years I feel I owe them a little something in return. I see it a little like Don Corleone from the Godfather, when he says, “Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s  wedding day.” As a company/brand you may never need a favor from your consumers, but itsn’t it worth treating them with respect and doing nice things for them, knowing that if that day does come they’ll be there.

A message to brands on Facebook, it takes heart

facebook_picI recently came across this article, Advertisers Face Hurdles on Social Networking Sites, written by Randall Stross in the New York Times. In the article Mr. Stross focuses on Procter & Gamble’s foray into advertising and brand building in social networks, specifically Facebook. From reading the article, highlighting P&G’s successes or lack thereof, you would have to agree with the conclusion that advertising on social networks is, as the article posits, ‘stillborn.’ Hurdles certainly do exist for brands on social networks and they come in the form of savvy audiences that easily ignore banner advertising and the simple truth that social network users are there to connect with friends, not brands.

I don’t think it is impossible for brands to connect with consumers on Facebook, although banner ads may not be the best way. The question that seems to determine success is, where does the brand exist in the consumer conscious already? P&G’s Facebook page for Crest Whitestrips, presumably the company’s most successful, has less than 10,000 fans. Only 10,000 fans, even after incorporating free movie screenings, sponsored concerts and contests with product giveaways, not exactly a shining example. Another P&G brand, Tide, has even lower popularity with only 640 fans. These are powerhouse brands, with amazing amounts of recognition, so why can’t they get more fans? As I see it, the problem is that these are rational/commodity brands. They exist in the head, not the heart. Being a “fan” or friend with Tide, to me, is a little like being a friend with Exxon or salt. Sure, gas makes my car go and salt adds flavor to my food, but there isn’t a particularly strong emotional reaction to either (at least not a positive one anyway).

On the other hand, there are a few brands that already have a strong emotional connection with consumers and are using Facebook as one channel to engage them. For example, Product(RED) has over 100,000 fans, Skittles has over 330,000 and Victoria’s Secret PINK has a whopping 800,000. These brands aim for the consumer’s heart, through various appeals, but always focus on elevating above a product/rational benefit to an emotional one. Perhaps these emotional brands have permission for a deeper place to play in consumers’ lives, but let’s not kid ourselves. Brands will never be as important in the lives of consumers’ as their friends or family, but it seems that if your brand occupies a tiny place in their heart it can help foster a social connection.

UPDATE: Seth Godin takes a decidedly different take.

Learning From EA’s Online Conversation

If you are a company trying to compete today you are online. Period. That probably means that you have also heard gobs and gobs of information about social media and online conversations. You may have also heard about the need to be conscious of your own level of importance within the lives of consumers (i.e. no one wants to be friends with your mouthwash). However, if you are like me and have a simple brain, you hear phrases such as “your brand needs to participate in the ongoing online conversation,” and think to yourself “sounds like a nifty thing to say, but what does that mean?” Well, I always find I learn best from examples and I think I have a found a great one. EA has filmed a posted a response to a user video that was on YouTube. Lets take a look:

Original User Video:

EA Response:

Here are a couple points that I take away from this response:

  • EA didn’t try to create their own social network or video-sharing site, they found an existing community, developed an understanding of the social conventions that were already there and worked within them.
  • As with any great participant in a conversation, EA listened. Levinator25 posted a “glitch” in the game, and rather than get defensive EA posted a funny video that took its tonal cues from the original.
  • EA added to the conversation. If EA hadn’t been able to come up with something as funny as this retort I believe they would have just skipped the idea altogether. No one needs EA’s voice here, but if it is interesting then it will be welcomed.
  • If you are a large company, be a large company. The average YouTube poster can’t film a video with the real Tiger Woods, but EA can.

Oh Boy Obama!

Oh Boy Obama is a site that crowd sources political campaign ideas. The thinking goes that this will quickly separate the wheat from the chaff and all the good ideas will bubble up to the surface. Since anyone can participate there will likely be a bunch of ideas. As a great professor, Mark Fenske, once told me quantity will breed quality. Thanks to that I have no doubt that there will be good ideas on the site. What I am skeptical of is whether the good ideas will be the ones that rise to the top? In all likelihood it will be the popular ideas, not necessarily the good ones that come up. This technique works well if you are selling a product since a popular product idea would likely translate to sales. However, I haven’t seen companies crowd sourcing advertising strategies. Just because a strategic idea is popular doesn’t mean it will be effective at accomplishing its goals. On the other hand, if Obama had wanted to crowd source his selection for, VP that would have been a better option that would have likely netted a greater amount of followers…Hillary anyone???

Cooking and Artistry

Great quote found at Leeland Maschmeyer’s blog:

Some of the best artists and designers are great cooks. There is something to cooking that is not only inherently inventive, but also exemplifies the very nature of unselfish giving from the heart. What you could eat yourself, you choose to give to another as the most meaningful sustenance for survival.

John Maeda

I would include planners and all creatives in this assesment as well.

Ingredients from my awesome blueberry crumble cookies

Keeping the good work going

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been writing for the alldaybuffet blog. You can read the latest post about whether or not donation is the optimal form of philanthropy here. This ties in well with another project we have been working on called the Greater Good Guild (G3). G3 will work social entreprenuers and brands dedicated to doing good, to foster ideas and ensure they are maximizing their social potential through establishing sustainable models with a positive impact.

Cookies Make Me Happy

Sometimes in advertising, it is enough to just put a smile on people’s faces…